Student champions boxing for fitness and empowerment

Last summer, Sahara Gipson worked as an intern for the organization Boxgirls South Africa.

For Sahara Gipson, a member of Temple’s gymnastics team, fitness can be empowering.

Gipson enjoys empowering others, too — like young girls trying to attend school in South Africa.

This summer, the senior media studies and production major traveled to South Africa through Student Athletes Abroad, an education program that pairs student athletes with internships in different countries.

While living in Cape Town, Gipson worked as a marketing intern for Boxgirls South Africa, a nonprofit organization that teaches boxing to young girls as a mechanism for self-defense.

“Together, women and girls are fighting against gender-based violence and other barriers to progress in their communities,” Boxgirls’ mission statement reads on its website.

About one in five women over the age of 18 have reported abuse from a partner, according to a study released by the South African Medical Research Council in May.

“We aren’t trying to make them the best boxers ever,” Gipson said. “Just empower them.”

Now, thousands of miles away from Cape Town, Gipson seeks to empower women on Main Campus as well. She works as the event coordinator for Temple’s branch of Pretty Girls Sweat, a national women’s fitness organization.

Like Boxgirls, Gipson said, Pretty Girls Sweat aims to provide a safe space where women can exercise together. At Temple, the group conducts different fitness activities, from running and cycling to Muay Thai kickboxing.

“Not everyone has time to go to the gym, or feels comfortable going,” Gipson said.

Senior media studies and production major Sahara Gipson poses while wearing her Boxgirls T-shirt at her gymnastics practice in McGonigle Hall on Aug. 31. | KHANYA BRANN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Boxgirls was established in Germany in 2001, when the organization began training girls in inner-city Berlin.  Recognized by the United Nations as a model project for physical education, Boxgirls launched in Cape Town in 2009.

With other interns, Gipson taught the South Africa-based Boxgirls team to use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Instagram and Facebook.

The Boxgirls team itself has only seven operating members. Most of them use nothing more than a pen and paper to record and evaluate the Boxgirls program, Gipson said.

Gipson also developed a social media campaign using the hashtag #boxgirlstrong to promote the organization’s social media presence. During August, National Women’s Month in South Africa, Gipson encouraged Instagram users to post pictures of strong women and tag Boxgirls’ account.

“Things that come easy to us aren’t necessarily easy for them,” Gipson said.

While Gipson’s role at Boxgirls South Africa was temporary, she said her work was helpful for the organization’s continued success.

“Our goal was not just to put these [digital] systems in place, but to ensure that they would continue after we left,” she added.

Ben Collins

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